The Compatibility Gene: How Our Bodies Fight Disease, Attract Others, and Define Our Selves

Overview


The Compatibility Gene takes readers on a global journey of discovery spanning 60 years, involving scores of scientists, and encompassing the history of transplants and immunology. That journey has revealed astonishing links between who we are as individuals and our never-ceasing struggle to survive disease.

Most of the 25,000 genes we possess are the same for all of us. Compatibility genes are those that vary most from person to person and give each of us a unique molecular ...

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The Compatibility Gene: How Our Bodies Fight Disease, Attract Others, and Define Our Selves

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Overview


The Compatibility Gene takes readers on a global journey of discovery spanning 60 years, involving scores of scientists, and encompassing the history of transplants and immunology. That journey has revealed astonishing links between who we are as individuals and our never-ceasing struggle to survive disease.

Most of the 25,000 genes we possess are the same for all of us. Compatibility genes are those that vary most from person to person and give each of us a unique molecular signature. These genes determine both the extent to which we are susceptible to a vast range of illnesses and the different ways each of us fights disease. In The Compatibility Gene, distinguished immunologist Daniel Davis draws on new research to suggest a number of even more fascinating-and controversial-conclusions about compatibility genes: that we find others more or less sexy according to their compatibility genes (dating services are starting to match people in this way); that the wiring between some neurons is kept or broken according to the activity of compatibility genes; and that compatibility genes influence the chances of a couple having a successful pregnancy. Profoundly personal, life-forming and life-changing decisions appear to be governed by the actions of a few inherited genes. Most importantly, Davis proposes that because we each respond slightly differently to any particular disease, in the not-too-distant future vaccines and other medications may be tailored to match our compatibility genes, a revolutionary breakthrough in the fight against disease.

Including vivid portraits of the scientists who worked tirelessly to unlock the secrets of compatibility genes, as well as patients who survived disease due to lucky genetic inheritances, The Compatibility Gene explains an aspect of human biology that will undoubtedly have profound impacts on medical practice in the 21st Century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/23/2013
Davis describes his task simply: “his is the story of a few human genes and how we discovered what these genes do.” However, his book is far more complex and rich than such an explanation might lead us to expect. The genes in question are at the heart of the human immunological response, and Davis, writing for a general audience, superbly explains much of what scientists now understand about immunology. That he does so within a historical context makes the story that much more captivating. Immunology is only about 70 years old, having begun with the pioneering work of Nobel laureate Peter Medawar in the 1940s. Davis, an immunologist himself, takes readers through the reasoning and experimentation of most of the field’s major figures and demonstrates how competition and cooperation drive scientific breakthroughs. He also explains the amazingly broad roles that genes play in determining individual immune responses. In addition to the fact that “the whole gamut of possible illnesses that could ever affect us are known to be influenced by our compatibility genes,” Davis shows that these genes also have an impact on brain organization and function and on the success of pregnancy. Agent: Caroline Hardman, Hardman and Swainson (U.K.). (Jan.)
From the Publisher

"Dr. Davis's readable and informative book takes the reader into unexpectedly interesting corners of both the immune system and the lives of immunologists. It is packed with an insider's knowledge - not just of the field, but of where its bodies are buried." -New York Times

"...[A]n elegantly written, unexpectedly gripping account of how scientists painstakingly unravelled the way in which a small group of genes ... crucially influence, and unexpectedly interconnect, various aspects of our lives... Lab work has rarely been made to seem more interesting or heroic." -- Bill Bryson, Guardian Books of the Year 2013

"Davis ranges energetically through the research. Cultural references and anecdotes abound." --Nature

"a fascinating, expertly told story" --The New Statesman

"Davis provides a well-written and easy-to-read account of the sometimes complicated biology behind the crucial genes that affect our lives so profoundly" --New Scientist

"Davis weaves a warm biographical thread through his tale of scientific discovery, revealing the drive and passion of those in the vanguard of research ... unusual results, astonishing implications and ethical dilemmas." -The Times of London

"Davis makes the twists and turns all count." -- The Guardian

"Wonderful pen-portraits of the many scientists involved in this fast-moving field...5 out of 5 stars." -- BBC Science Magazine FOCUS

"Davis describes his task simply: '[T]his is the story of a few human genes and how we discovered what these genes do.' However, his book is far more complex and rich than such an explanation might lead us to expect." - Publishers Weekly

"There aren't many stories of scientific endeavour that have never been told. This is one of them. Ostensibly about a set of genes that we all have and need, this book is really about the men and women who discovered them and worked out what they do. It's about brilliant insights and lucky guesses; the glory of being proved right and the paralysing fear of getting it wrong; the passion for cures and the lust for Nobels. It's a search for the essence of scientific greatness by a scientist who is headed that way himself.''
-- Armand Marie Leroi, Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, Imperial College London, author of Mutants

"Who am I? What makes me different from everyone else? Daniel Davis recounts the remarkable science that has answered one version of these questions. He makes immunology as fascinating to popular science readers as cosmology, consciousness, and evolution."
-- Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature

"What make us truly unique? Our personalities? Maybe, but more fundamental to the identity of each and every one of us is our spectrum of histocompatibility genes. Writing in a way that everyone can follow, Dan Davis tells this intriguing story. ''
-- Peter C. Doherty, Professor of Biomedical Research at St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, USA, and at the University Of Melbourne Medical School, Australia, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine for work on the immune system

"In a rollicking romp through immunology's first century, Dan Davis expounds on the extraordinary genes that determine compatibility of donor organs with recipient patients in clinical transplantation. By personalizing human immune systems, the compatibility genes have enabled individuals and populations to resist extinction by epidemic infections. If that were not enough, they also influence our brains, mate selection, and reproductive success. Boasting a particularly rare set of compatibility genes, Davis has a raw talent for evoking the thrill and thrall of scientific research."
-- Peter Parham, Professor of Structural Biology & Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University, author of The Immune System

"...[A]n elegantly written, unexpectedly gripping account of how scientists painstakingly unravelled the way in which a small group of genes ... crucially influence, and unexpectedly interconnect, various aspects of our lives... Lab work has rarely been made to seem more interesting or heroic." --Bill Bryson, Guardian Books of the Year 2013

"The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M Davis is an elegantly written, unexpectedly gripping account of how scientists painstakingly unravelled the way in which a small group of genes (known as MHC genes) crucially influence, and unexpectedly interconnect, various aspects of our lives, from how well we fight off infection to how skilfully we find a mate. Lab work has rarely been made to seem more interesting or heroic." - Bill Bryson, The Guardian, Writers and critics on the best books of 2013

"...the book presents a window into a prolific period of novel insights, early hypotheses that have since been rejected and groundbreaking discoveries." -- Nature Medicine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199316410
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 380,404
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel M. Davis is currently a Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester, UK, where he is the Director of Research at the Manchester Collaborative Center for Inflammation Research. He is the winner of the Oxford University Press/Times Higher Education Supplement Science Writing Prize (2000).

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Table of Contents

Introduction

PART I: Human Compatibility - A Scientific Revolution
1. Frankenstein's holy trinity
2. Self and non-self
3. Dead but alive in parts
4. A crystal clear answer at last

PART II: The Frontier of Compatibility Research
5. Differences between us that matter
6. Pathfinders
7. Missing self

PART III: The Overarching System
8. Sex and smelly T-shirts
9. Secrets of the mind
10. The footprints of your existence
Epilogue: What makes you so special?

Acknowledgements
References and Notes
Index

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